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The Franklin News-Post
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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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School board discusses single busing again
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Ed Jamison

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Franklin County School Board members are still considering a change from dual busing to single busing in an effort to save money.

"We are trying to probe into our spending and find more money for the budget," said Ed Jamison, school board chairman.

A review by Steve Oakes, director of facilities and transportation, suggested that the single-busing system could be implemented with approximately 95 bus routes, which represents a reduction of 14 routes from the number currently in place.

The personnel savings associated with the reduction would be approximately $176,708, while the fuel savings would be around $73,500 for a total savings of $250,208.

Jamison expressed appreciation for Oakes' efforts, but said he felt the savings figures were "just a little conservative."

Positives and negatives of the single busing system were discussed by board members during their meeting Monday.

The county implemented the dual busing system over 15 years ago, and it serves elementary schools with local routes and the middle and high schools with countywide routes. Currently, the elementary students ride on separate buses from the middle and high school students.

Some Franklin County School Board members have suggested in the past that changing the busing system might be a way to save money when funds are short.

With the single-busing option, there would be buses designated per zone, Oakes said.

"Those buses would pick up every child in that zone, then go to that particular elementary school," he said. "Then they would go on to the middle and high school. Elementary children would get to school around 7:30 a.m. and remain there until around 4 p.m."

Three years ago, school administrators and bus drivers told the school board that eliminating the dual-busing system could cause more discipline problems and create a longer school day for elementary children.

The issue of chaperones on the buses and in the schools before and after classes was raised by board member, Bill Brush from the Gills Creek district.

"We need to factor in the cost of chaperones to keep elementary and secondary kids separated," he said. "All 95 buses would need to have chaperones."

"Teachers are on a seven and one-half hour a day schedule and are not required to stay and supervise," Oakes said.

Also, some bus drivers could see a reduction in pay since some of the routes would be paid on time and mileage, and some of the routes could be shorter, said Oakes.

The elimination of the dual system could have another benefit. With the current system, elementary students get home in the afternoon 30 to 45 minutes sooner than middle and high school students. When both parents work, many elementary children are at home alone until older brothers and sisters arrive home from school, Oakes said.

From a childcare standpoint, it would better for elementary, middle and high school students to arrive home at the same time, so the older students can care for their younger siblings, Jamison said.

"There could be positive benefits" aside from the savings by eliminating the dual system, Jamison added.

In the past, the board had concluded that it wanted to keep the dual system, but Jamison said that the issue should remain in the budget discussions.

Another option presented to the school board Monday was to eliminate three secondary routes from the current dual-busing system. The savings would be about $53,166, Oakes said.

A third option would be to eliminate three secondary routes and five more elementary routes from the current system. Savings from this option would be about $135,476, Oakes said.

This option would mean that the county would keep the dual-busing system and have only five routes switched to the single-busing system.

"When you get into the far reaches of the county, sometimes two buses would be used to pick up two different kids," Jamison said. "This option would allow us to have those two children picked up by the same bus, thus saving on mileage."

Maintenance, insurance and bus replacement costs were not factored into any of the three options, Jamison said.

The board hopes to vote on one of the three options in February.

 
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